McGeorge is invested in the success of every admitted student. Therefore, we offer a robust academic support program that promotes student success from orientation to graduation. Student reviews of the program are enthusiastic. We also have our Associate Dean keep track of all assessments valued at more than 5% of course grades to ensure that students are not subjected to multiple assessments close in time. In particular, the sequencing of the first year assessments are coordinated and strategically timed.
The academic support opportunities in the first year include a combination of required and optional courses and other resources.
First Week is the orientation program at McGeorge. During First Week, students officially begin their Torts classes as an introduction to law school classes. These classes are partnered with three academic support sessions. During these integrated sessions, students learn substantive law as well as fundamental law school skills such as critical reading, extracting rules, case briefing, class preparation and participation, and rule synthesis. These courses are taught by the Academic Support Director, the Torts professors, and other faculty. Students are also required to attend: Introduction to the Legal Profession; Introduction to Your Fall Semester and Expert Learning for Law School; Torts Analytical Skills; Critical Case Reading; Torts Analytical Skills: Case Briefing; Torts Analytical Skills: Mock Class with Debrief; and Balancing Life and Law. Additionally, in advance of First Week, all students are mailed a copy of Expert Learning for Law Students by Michael Hunter Schwartz and Paula J. Manning and they are given a reading assignment of four chapters that must be completed before they arrive on campus.
All first-year students at McGeorge are required to take a 1-unit Skills Lab during their fall semester, which is incorporated into a substantive law course, such as Torts or Property. Currently, the Skills Lab is connected to Torts. During this course, students have the opportunity to practice and receive feedback on the various skills needed to be a successful law student, including: critical reading, case briefing, extracting and writing rules, note-taking, outlining, the IRAC exam-writing method, legal analysis, multiple choice assessments, time management, and stress management. This course is taught by the Academic Support Director, separately for each section. It meets one-hour each week, where the primary focus is skills but taught in the context of Torts.
Additionally, first-year students are required to complete two practice exams, for which they receive feedback on their efforts. These are given prior to their first set of midterms in the fall semester. The first practice test is a take-home essay the students complete in 3 hours or less and are encouraged to use their class notes. The second practice exam is given under regular testing conditions. This practice exam allows limited open notes. This allows students to experience law school exam-taking conditions and the pressures of a timed exam.
Additionally, because we expect our students to do more than just these two formal practice tests in preparation of their exams, most professors release past essay exams so that students may write practice exams on their own, often meeting individually with professors to discuss their answers. These past exams are available on individual professor’s TWEN or Canvas pages, the library web page, or through the Director of Academic Support. 1L students receive personalized feedback on student practice tests prior to midterms and finals.
All first-year students are placed in 1L Study Teams, which are led by an upper division student. Each 1L Study Team has 6-8 students and meets once per week, starting with three meetings during First Week. The students have required assignments for their study teams, such as outlining, creating exam attack sheets, and practicing answering multiple choice and essay questions, all of which are connected to both the substance and skills taught in their Torts and Analytical Skills courses. The Academic Support Director and the Torts professors design the curriculum for the 1L Study Teams.
Full-time students whose first semester grades (below 3.0) indicate they would benefit from more intensive skills instruction and all part-time students will be placed in smaller sections of Criminal Law. These smaller sections allow greater focus on improving the skills necessary for success in law school and legal practice. In addition to learning the required Criminal Law material, students learn relevant aspects of modern brain science, complete skills exercises and a significant number of assessments, receive detailed feedback on their work, and participate in one-on-one counseling.
Academic support faculty are available to meet with and counsel students at any time regarding study techniques (critical reading, case briefing, outlining, attack sheets), exam-taking, time management, supplemental materials, study groups, and other matters related to academic progress and/or the bar exam. Professors also regularly review practice tests and give extensive feedback. The Director of Academic Support regularly holds 8-10 hours of open office hours per week, more during midterms and finals, and is available to students via email, in the evenings, and weekend. Additionally, after midterms, the Director of Academic Support reviews all midterm grades and personally emails a select group of students (50-100 students) who performed sub-par on the midterms and invites them to meet with her to discuss their midterm performance and help them better prepare for finals.
The Academic Support Resource Center is a study space on the first floor of the Library, just inside the main entrance near the seating area. Students may come to the Resource Center to study individually, meet in their study groups, or meet with teaching assistants. The Resource Center contains a library of supplemental study materials that students may check out, including course supplements, commercial outlines, audio materials, flash cards, and bar exam preparation materials.
Students whose cumulative first-year grades indicate they would benefit from more intensive skills instruction are placed in the Directed Study Program. This Program is designed to help students reach their full potential in law school through a continuum of academic support and counseling, as well as to introduce them to the skills necessary to pass the bar exam on the first attempt. Students placed in Directed Study will remain in the program for the duration of their time at McGeorge. Students in the Directed Study Program also have other required courses and will meet regularly with the Dean of Students to discuss their academic scheduling and progress. Additionally, the Director of Academic Support is available to meet with any McGeorge student or graduate seeking to improve his or her study skills and exam performance.